Thursday, July 3, 2008
The Battle of Olustee, Florida - Part Seven
When the Federals broke and withdrew from the field at Olustee, the Confederates began what could best be described as a half-hearted pursuit.
General Beauregard, later reviewing the results of the action, felt that the Confederate cavalry had been negligent in fulfilling its duties and that had the enemy been energetically pursued, Seymour's entire army might have been captured or destroyed.
General Finegan echoed this sentiments in his official report:
During the continuance of the battle, also after the enemy had given way, I sent repeated orders to Colonel Smith, commanding cavalry, to press the enemy on his flanks and to continue in the pursuit. But through some misapprehension these orders failed to be executed by him, and only two small companies on the left, and these but for a short distance, followed the enemy.
Smith was the commanding officer of the 2nd Florida Cavalry and had been placed in charge of all the Confederate cavalry prior to the battle.
Despite the obvious breakdown of the pursuit of the defeated enemy following the battle, the results achieved by the Confederates at Olustee can only be described as astounding. In a stand up fight in the open pine woods they had handed the Union its worst defeat of the war in a major battle. The 40% casualties suffered by Seymour's army at Olustee was unmatched during the Civil War.
In addition, as Finegan reported, the Confederates captured a rich haul of artillery and military supplies. This included "5 superior guns, 1 set of colors captured, and 1,600 stand of arms; also 130,000 rounds of cartridges (damaged by having been thrown into water)." Union reports indicated that six pieces of artillery were lost.
Our series on the Battle of Olustee will continue. Until the next post, you can read more by visiting www.exploresouthernhistory.com/olustee.